Tuesday was Equal Pay Day. According to the National Committee for Pay Equity, it symbolizes how far into 2011 women must work to earn what men earned in 2010. It originated in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages.

The wage gap is a popular theme in the media. The feminist elite love to belabor the fact that women make less money than men throughout their lifetime — “Women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns” — but they never provide the details. They’d rather people believe America is ruled by a patriarchy.

What are some of these details? For one, the pay gap in America is not between men and women but between married women and other men and women who spend their lifetimes in the workforce. It is primarily the result of a voluntary domestic division of labor, not discrimination by a conspiracy of male chauvinists. Indeed, women who remain single and childless, stay in the labor force, and work long hours earn, it turns out, more than men! As Carrie Lukas wrote this week in the Wall Street Journal,

“In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm, Reach Advisors, found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts.”

But it’s the types of jobs men and women choose that make a difference. Not only do women not pursue the dangerous and unpleasant jobs men do, most women do not have the desire to live the life required for most high-pay positions. No man or woman rises to high-income ranks on a forty-hour week. Ask any successful doctor, lawyer, or business executive. They have spent years working nights and weekends, bringing home briefcases bulging with work and serving clients or customers in a steady stream outside of office hours. These folks have paid a big price for their career and financial success. For any man or woman who chooses that life, there is plenty of room at the top.

There are fewer female politicians for the same reason. Most women have no desire to do the work necessary to win elections—drive thousands of miles, shake hundreds of strangers’ hands, eat third-rate chicken suppers, and attend political meetings every night and weekend. And most women certainly don’t want to subject themselves to political attacks that impugn their integrity and probe into their personal lives and finances.

Much to feminists’ dismay, most women with children—if they work outside the home at all—work part-time. And they like it that way. That’s why married men with children earn the most, while married women with children earn the least. As the number of children increases, a married man spends more hours in the workforce to support his family, and a married woman spends fewer hours in order to care for the children. As long as women make this choice, there will never be male-female pay parity. That’s not something to gripe about — it’s something to celebrate.

I’m certain the nation’s children would agree.

Suzanne Venker is co-author of the new book The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know – and Men Can’t Say.